2012 April 17 – Day 37 – Venice, Italy (Day 1)

Italy!  I couldn’t believe it.  One of my “I really want to go there someday” places.  And, we were not just anywhere in Italy, we were in Venice!  Awesome!  Awesome!  I was stoked.We were up at 7 am in order to be ready on deck for the sail in to Venice.  Venice is located at the very northern tip of the Adriatic Sea on the south eastern coast of the top of the Italian ‘boot.’  It is closer to Slovenia, Croatia and Austria than it is to Rome.  It is a city of islands; 117 of them.  The city is laced with 150 canals and more than 400 bridges.  The longest span – Laguna Veneta – is the only road to the mainland.

The ship had to navigate the canals at dead slow and it was a beautiful day so the sail-in to the port was absolutely lovely.You can just make out the snow-capped Italian Alps in the background.            Doges’ Palace and the tower at St. Mark’s Square.                                                                                    Now, that is a long tour boat.There are cranes all over the place as restoration and preservation of the buildings and canals is ongoing year round.  The Bridge of Sighs that took people from the court in Doges’ Palace to the jail next door.  The last glimpse of the outside world was through the two little windows.

The ship has to sail from the Adriatic Sea through the Porto di Lido which is a breakway channel between two narrow strips of land that separate the city of Venice from the sea.  Once through the ‘gate’ you are in Laguna Veneta (Venice Lagoon) which surrounds the main city.  The captain followed St. Mark Canal until it separates into the Grand Canal on the right and wide Della Giudecca  Canal to the left.  Della Giudecca Canal goes right to the port terminal.  We essentially began at the bottom point of a large S and then docked at the top tip.   It was very cool to enter Venice by ship and thus get a good look at all the canals and connecting waterways.  The ship was staying overnight in Venice and we had an evening tour so after breakfast we walked (as in followed the crowds and some crew) to Piazza Roma and the train station where we were able to buy a good ‘street’ map.

One of the shore excursions offered on the ship was a four-hour walking tour of Venice, which took you past several churches and as far as the famous Rialto Bridge.  Since we knew from the shore excursion brochure which places the walking tour would take you we just found the route ourselves and had a great day walking around Venice.  All ‘roads’ lead to St. Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge – the two most famous landmarks in the city.  There are lovely little shops tucked here, there, and everywhere.The architecture and design of Venice covers the Byzantine to Renaissance styles.  Everywhere you look there are lovely buildings and decorative accents. The bridge has a set of steps on each side of the central building in the middle of the bridge.

                                                   There is a nice view of the busy Grand Canal  We walked across the bridge on one side and returned on the other side then made our way along the Grand Canal for awhile before turning onto one of the side paths and making our way back to the ship.                                                            Rialto Bridge.

 Venice was like Oia on Santorini in Greece.  I could take a photograph everywhere I looked because there was so much beauty and an abundance of  interesting buildings and images.

Five hours later we returned to our cabin, weary but exhilarated from a fabulous day.  We eat in the dining room at early seating which is 5:30 and we are not generally finished until about 7.  We had to be at the bottom of the gangway at 6:30 for our sunset gondola ride.  We asked Ridho, our waiter if it would be possible and he assured us he would get our dinner in time for us to make our tour.  We sacrificed one of our starter courses and planned to also skip dessert but Ridho did such a great job bringing our meals out promptly we even managed to have dessert and be finished by 6:20.

We were taken by boat launch from the port to a docking area near St. Mark’s Square.  There were about 50 people signed up for the ride in a gondola.  Two couples were put into each boat.  After we and Bill & Lyn were settled two more men also got in our boat and went to the back beside the gondolier.  We were not sure what was going on but quickly discovered that we were the ‘central’ gondola around which the others would travel to hear the singing.

The extra two men were the guitar player and the tenor who sang beautiful songs as we sailed through the canals as the sun set.  How absolutely incredible.  Lyn and I kept offering to pinch each other to be sure we were not dreaming.  Something like this is what you read about in books or watch in romantic movies, you don’t really ever believe you will do it yourself.  We certainly found it difficult to believe we were really there and really doing that.  Excited does not begin to describe how we were feeling. By 9:30 we were back aboard the Prinsedam and getting ready for bed, anticipating another great day in Venice on the morrow.

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